In what can only be a testament to Henry Jackman’s broadening range as a composer, he’s moved from the hauntingly elegant, classically American score for the Birth of a Nation remake right back into the action adventure sphere for Kong: Skull Island, the brand new entry into Legendary’s embryonic ‘Monsterverse’, with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film actually serving as a prequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla. For a movie which ostensibly pits a mismatched team of explorers who come face to face with the legendary King Kong on an island filled with peril, Jackman delivers a decidedly epic score, at times bombastic while almost equally creeping and mysterious. He manages to capture not just the adventure aspects of Vogt-Roberts’ movie but the enigmatic jungle stylistics of the setting throughout.
Most interestingly, however, Jackman chooses to throw a few wildcards in there – principally his use of electric guitar, dropping twanging chords in tracks such as ‘Packard’s Blues’ which add a real sense of unusual style to an otherwise epic, orchestral album. His guitar strings echo almost discordantly too, matching the range of instruments Jackman uses to convey the dangerous journey Tom Hiddleston and the rest of the cast embark on; jungle drums apparent right from the ominous opening track ‘South Pacific’, coupled with a stirring rhythm of violin matched with synthetic beats pulsing under the surface in ‘Project Monarch’, which we heard most recently in his bravura score to Captain America: Civil War. Jackman equally is unafraid to evoke that sense of dark mystery in tracks such as ‘The Temple’, where he steadily escalates wonder and imagination through a mixture of soulful male choral voices and soothing instruments before it opens up into an elegant brass section.
Everything finally builds to a fantastic, rousing crescendo with ‘The Battle of Skull Island’, a near six-minute fusion of the many instruments and styles Jackman has deployed across the album, replete with his signature style combining pulsing, recurring action beats alongside elevating brass in the vein of a Williams or a Giacchino at his best. It doesn’t quite top his still superb Captain America: The Winter Soldier, perhaps a career-best score so far, but Jackman does seem to keep getting stronger and stronger with these rousing, epic adventure scores and Kong: Skull Island is among his best.
★ ★ ★ ★
Kong: Skull Island will be released everywhere on March 10th, as will the score by WaterTower records.